Russian Tank Recovered from the Lake After 50 Years Been There

WW-II Trophy tank

14 September 2000, a Komatsu D375A-2 pulled an abandoned tank from its archival tomb under the bottom of a lake near Johvi, Estonia. The Soviet-built T34/76A tank had been resting at the bottom of the lake for 56 years. According to its specifications, it’s a 27-tonne machine with a top speed of 53km/h.

From February to September 1944, heavy battles were fought in the narrow, 50 km-wide, Narva front in the northeastern part of Estonia. Over 100,000 men were killed and 300,000 men were wounded there. During battles in the summer of 1944, the tank was captured from the Soviet army and used by the German army. (This is the reason that there are German markings painted on the tank’s exterior.) On 19 September 1944, German troops began an organised retreat along the Narva front. It is suspected that the tank was then purposefully driven into the lake, abandoning it when its captors left the area.

At that time, a local boy walking by the lake Kurtna Matasjarv noticed tank tracks leading into the lake, but not coming out anywhere. For two months he saw air bubbles emerging from the lake. This gave him reason to believe that there must be an armoured vehicle at the lake’s bottom. A few years ago, he told the story to the leader of the local war history club “Otsing”. Together with other club members, Mr Igor Shedunov initiated diving expeditions to the bottom of the lake about a year ago. At the depth of 7 metres they discovered the tank resting under a 3-metre layer of peat.

Enthusiasts from the club, under Mr Shedunov’s leadership, decided to pull the tank out. In September 2000 they turned to Mr Aleksander Borovkovthe, manager of the Narva open pit of the stock company AS Eesti Polevkivi, to rent the company’s Komatsu D375A-2 bulldozer. Currently used at the pit, the Komatsu dozer was manufactured in 1995, and has 19,000 operating hours without major repairs.

The pulling operation began at 09:00 and was concluded at 15:00, with several technical breaks. The weight of the tank, combined with the travel incline, made a pulling operation that required significant muscle. The D375A-2 handled the operation with power and style. The weight of the fully armed tank was around 30 tons, so the tractive force required to retrieve it was similar. A main requirement for the 68-tonne dozer was to have enough weight to prevent shoe-slip while moving up the hill.

After the tank surfaced, it turned out to be a ‘trophy’ tank, that had been captured by the German army in the course of the battle at Sinimaed (Blue Hills) about six weeks before it was sunk in the lake. Altogether, 116 shells were found on board. Remarkably, the tank was in good condition, with no rust, and all systems (except the engine) in working condition.
This is a very rare machine, especially considering that it fought both on the Russian and the German sides. Plans are under way to fully restore the tank. It will be displayed at a war history museum, that will be founded at the Gorodenko village on the left bank of the River Narva.

Looking at the two tracked machines, the modern yellow Komatsu dozer is a reminder of how machine technologies have advanced, and the region’s prospects of peace and prosperity have brightened.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp

Preparing to pull it out.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 2

People from the nearby village come to look how it would be done.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 3
Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 4

Komatsu D375A-2 is ready to go.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 5

Here it comes…

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 6

Through muddy shore of the lake…

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 7
Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 8
Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 9
Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 10

What a mint condition.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 11

As it has been mentioned it was captured by Germans and that’s why there are Nazi symbol on it.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 12
Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 13

As far it has been known, after a small repair and service they were able to start it’s diesel engine.

Russian tank t-34 from Estonian swamp 14

Here is the video footage of the event:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Photos: Me elis Mitt, Estonia
Some text: Komatsu Times, 2000

56 thoughts on “Russian Tank Recovered from the Lake After 50 Years Been There”

  1. As an ex-tanker that got to dig out M60A3s and M-1s out of the muck I can fully appreciate this.

    It is amazing how easily the tracks roll after being in the water that long. Usually, by the time tanks got stuck the tracks popped off and then they were a royal pain to muck around with.

  2. AMAZING that its in such good condition.

    AMAZING that they managed to pull it out (with all that water inside it must have weighed twice normal).

    AMAZING that he remembered the tank tracks after 56 years.

    good story.

    I wonder if the Germans marked the controls inside, convert from cyrillic alphabet to roman alphabet.

  3. yup it’s an amazing story. can’t actually believe the man has kept it secret for such a long time.

    @ilyich – i don’t think so germans marked controls, the tank was in their use for just a couple of months and it was a purely trophy tank.

    one remark: the symbol on the tank is not actually a nazi symbol, it was a symbol of regular german army (wehrmacht). nazy symbol is swastika 🙂

  4. Ilyich, they probably didn’t.

    The British Armed Forces have some old Soviet vehicles, and apparently tanks are pretty much the same to drive no matter what. They changed two or three of the markings, on fiddly bits, but the majority of it is still Russian in these now British CCCP tanks.

    I suppose the same might have gone for the Germans, I doubt they’d have bothered; if you can drive it you can drive it.

  5. This is a very interesting find. I hope that you are able to follow up on this article with either a pictorial of this vehicle or some more information regarding the Club and gentlemen who had found this item. I am sure that this would make a good short story or better a book about the area during the war.

    Nobel Lugo

  6. Very interesting. I wonder if any of the Germans who drove it into the lake are still alive? Fewer of the WWII vets left every day, most in their 80s…The tank is a real time traveller…

  7. This sure doesn’t look like a 76A. It’s a single hatch on top, but the turret appears to be hex-shape of the later model B or C. The gun mount and the ball-MG, the wheels…

    What a beautiful find, though:)


  8. adolf, you have no idea what you are saying. Soviet Union would have crushed Patton with all his gasoline powered shermans and his private german army in less then a month. During those days, the might of soviet army was immence and it is actually lucky for the western world that Stalin was somewhat controled and asked to stop. He wanted to keep on going through the rest of the Europe and take it all – and he would! Who was to stop him? The Italians? The Spanish? The British? The Americans? Please! Don’t even try to say anything and go change your name… adolph…

    • Hey max
      At the end of the war, the US had come out with the General Pershing. Although, there were alot of Shermans in service, the Pershing would have been mass produced in numbers had a war broken out with the Bolchevicks. The Pershing was far superior to the Sherman, carrying a 90 mm cannon that would have easily taken on the T-34s. Also, the US air force was far superior to anything the Bolchevicks had. The P-51 mustang and the Corsair were light years ahead of the Yak. The B-17 and B-29 Superfortresses would have laid waste to the rest of Russian that Germay didn’t destroy to start with. Your navy was non-existant back then. We could have wiped the Russian army from the face of the earth, and totally bypassed the cold war.

      • ha Big Tex usa would not have beaten the ussr in 1945 as the western allies did not in 1919 yes the us and the britsh plus france invaded Russia at the end of the 1914-1918 war

  9. Greetings & Salutations! What a really unusual story and the photos of a recovered Soviet tank captured and put into service of the German army is really quite a sight. Obviously Russian manufacturers certainly built their tanks to last well into the 21st century more than 60 years later, what an achievement of Russian technology! Looking forward to see ing more articles like this one, thank you for sharing them! Sarge Booker of Tujunga, California

  10. Amazeing! 56 years in the muddy water, but still intact. A new engine, some basic repairs and it’s ready to go back into service. The Russians built their equipment to last during the War. Their country, their very lives were at stake.

    I wonder how a Sherman or Pershing would have faired under similar circumstances?

  11. Would be interesting to see if there were survivors who actually put the tank in the lake! There must be a few hardy troops still around.

  12. What a great find! And to be so well preserved, after all these years, is really lucky! But I don’t think it’s only the Russian ability to make it, that kept it in such good shape. I think the cold fresh water, and the peat covering it helped a great deal. Peat has a way of keeping the oxygen from getting to the metal, and starting the rust forming. And if there are more relics down there, I hope they can be recovered also! I too, would love to see a documentary show done on this.

  13. Stunning. definitely does not look like a T-34A, the ‘C’ model had twin hatches on top and the turret looks like a gayka hexnut type. My guess is a 1942/43 built T-34D which should mean that the main armament is a 76.2mm L/41.6 gun. D.

  14. I hope they leave it with its current markings when it is restored. It is more valuable to show as a vehicle that was used by both sides, an anomaly, than to tart it back up with soviet markings.
    In fact, it looks as though some of the old soviet ‘slogan’ markings are still on the vehicle, and that the Germans were rather hasty in the repainting.

    There is an interesting book I am now reading called
    “Armored Vehicles and Units of the German Order Police”
    by Werner Regenberg that documents how the Germans used alot of captured or obsolete vehicles by giving them to armored units of the German police who fought partisans in occupied areas. It has many pictures of soviet T-34’s repainted with German markings. I wonder if this vehicle was one of those? T-34’s were also used by the Finns against the soviets after capture.


  15. Peat is a wonderful thing.

    My thoughts as to the type of T-34: The turret configuration on this vehicle definitely makes it a model produced in 1943, so that would narrow it down to a T-34/76D, E, or F. The round drum fuel tank mounted on the side and the hand rails on the turret and body strongly suggest that it was built at Factory No. 112 (the Krasnoye Sormovo plant or ‘Red Sormovo’) in Gorki (now Nizhnij Nivgorod) between mid-1943 and early 1944.

    Although the Germans commonly attached commander’s cupolas to captured tanks, the cupola on this one looks integral.

    Thus– a T-34/76E (also referred to as a T-34 Model 1943).
    The E series still used the 76.2mm rounds (as Dino noted above). A similar tank can be seen at, 4th photo from the bottom of the page.

    As a captured weapon, it would have been designated a Panzerkampfwagen T-34(r) (the “r” for Russland).

    More details at
    Pictures of items found inside at

  16. A comment to max’s response to adolphs comment. The way Patton planned on stopping the Red’s was to drop some of the wonderous nukes on Red Square I do not care what kind of mass military personnel you have that would have definetly thinned them out. Maybe instead of wasting them on the Japanese who were ready to come to terms they should have been used where they would have done the most good, on Stalin. Then the communists and the Zionist power would have been set back a few decades

  17. That is truely amazing. It looks in raelly good shape. It’s not beat up and shot up and the tracks lool like the tension has been serviced. A low mileage vehicle?
    It must have been rolled into the lake and not “put in gear and the driver jumped out and let it run into the lake” situtation. The tracks rolled easily so it must have still been in neutral.
    That reminds me of a tank that I saw in the Patton Tank Museum in Fort Knox Kentucky. They have a tank on display that had just arrived. It was an Axis (enemy) tank (I can’t remember the make/model) that had been dug out of a mud pit, washed off and shipped to the museum. It was still covered in tan mud, and had the smell of old gas (not diesel powered).For being submereged in fresh water mud, it’s tracks would also turn.

    Nice pics,and it’s good to see vids also.
    Nice job,

    The Military Channel (spin-off from the History/Discovery Channels)has a new show called “Tank Overhaul” on Direct TV channel 287. They document the rebuilding/restoring of different tanks, allied and axis. Need to check it out if that channel is available.

  18. Very interesting, I read a book about a sherman that had been recovered from the ocean off a beach in England during the 1980 I think. It had been lost off a landing craft during an exercise for D-day, it was recovered in a simillar manner to this one, eg dragged out by bulldozer, and it’s tracks also turned. The comment in the book that every thing was very well greased. The tank was unsed to make a memorial for those lost during the Slapton sands desaster when german e-boats attacked landing craft on a night exercise causing many deaths.

  19. Nice pics… thanks!

    Slight correction here.
    The ensignia are not Nazi, but German. The Nazi insignia was thought by the world to be the swastika, but this is also wrong as it’s a good luck sign used for a 1000+ years. Also used by the Bhuddist religion.

    It was just unforunate that hitler chose this sign to represent the fanatics of his national socialist movement.

    • oh well very fascinating i cant beleive he remembered after 56 years well its nothing to forget i mean i wish i wittnessed that! Unbelevable i will remember this for the rest of my life so should that man! AMAZING!

  20. Wow, this is truly amazing. i am little more then a casual military buff, i take great interest in military hardware and strategy, and i find this salvage operation to be more then interesting.

    although i cant make intensely educated comments like Dan, who seems to know a great deal about world war 2 hardware, how its manufactured, and such,

    but it stands to reason that any vehicle tossed into bog / peat lake conditions can survive 100’s of 100’s years without any real decomposition. during a recent trip to Algonquin Provincial Park, in Ontario: Canada, i viewed a display of a preserved body found in one of the many bogs in the region, tests show the body (which was in surprisingly good condition) was somewhere around 400 years old, and had spent this time below the thick peat that covered the water surface.

    as explained, peat literally drains the oxygen out of water, and where theres no oxygen, theres no decay. Bogs are museums by themselves, as no where else can you experience something from the past in such perfect condition, i mean, look at the paint on that tank, almost looks ‘fresh’.

    those tanks WERE built tough wernt they? so many years that tank was completely submerged and all systems but the engine work within minutes of being pulled from its tomb? the gears all work, ball bearings roll without resistance, i wouldn’t be at all surprised if the firing mechanisms worked off the bat too.

    a VERY cool story, that im glad i stumbled upon. i knew of alot of tank wrecks found of the coasts of multiple countries, most of which are naturally in rough condition after spending time in the salty oceans. but to hear, and see the videos of such a mint condition war machine is inspiring.

  21. The T-34 was voted as the number 1 tank of WWII by a military channel TV program recently. They were cheap to make, very reliable, reasonably armored for the top speed they produced (35mph is amazing for WWII and likely fastest for an in service tank of that era). The very good Russian gunners were able to shoot “on the move” which gave an advantage considering the great agility and speed of these tanks. T-34 vs Shermans? Please. No contest. T-34 was vastly superior. Typical Shermans had frontal armor only 50mm thick versus 70mm for T-34/76 (1943). Sherman IVY M4A3 had a top speed of only 26mph (T-34 could cruise at that speed!). Sherman Firefly maybe came close but it was also too slow and had a range of only 100 miles. T-34/85 had better armor, 85mm gun and a range of 290 miles! It also had a diesel engine vs gas engine in the shermans. We all know how much more superior diesel engines were in tanks of WWII. Just look at what happened to gas engined German tanks in the winter. Give me a break! As far as tank comparison T-34 is much superior and is still in use today. Where are the Shermans? In museums. During battle they burned like matchsticks! US had better organizational ability for war but as far as tanks of WWII T-34 is a clear winner.

  22. This is so awesome. Its great to see something recoverd from years ago. A battle to keep the world free. yet some still start fights. I’m just happy our two countries fought together and won. There’ll always be those few that hate others, Just brush them off. And thank god (or who ever you warship) we have the internet to share these finds with the entire world. Great job and hope they keep posting photos as they rebild it. Joe USA

  23. this is amazing i learned this in history class ad decided to look it up because it is so facsinating. I wonder if there are any other stors like this! Amazing! The guy who told the history people is a good person he should be famous for what he did. Bravo!

  24. The United States could have dropped atomic bombs on Russia in 1945. Russia would have been totally annihilated.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  25. I followed on Youtube the restoration of a tank pulled from a lake somewhere. They have it fully restored. This might even be it.

  26. Somebody said that T34 was reliable.
    The answer is: absolutely not.
    Soviets lost more of them to breakdowns than to German tanks.
    And Sherman vs. T34 the winner is Sherman.
    Sherman was more comfortable, more reliable, had sight stabilizator, made less noise due the rubber tracks.

    And some story of that T34 from the lake:
    It was used in Estonia, writings on the tank are “Nõukogude Eesti eest” meaning “For Soviet Estonia”

  27. Russian tank. Or Soviet Union tank? Wich one? Or Soviet Union = Russian? Russians isn’t nation, they soviet people? Why todays russians so despertly tryng call everything, what was famous in Soviet Union as Russian? But shame Soviet Union things they just don’t accsept as Russians? For example friendship between Soviet Union and Nazi Germany? How they together attacd Poland. How Soviet Union (Russia) build tanks and aircraft for Nazi Germany. How millions innocent people was killed in Soviet Union concentration camps (between, Nazi Germany learnd about concetration (death) camps from Soviet Union). How part of nations and entire nations were deported from their historical livingplaces to concentration camps in north and Siberia and Kazakhstan. And its more and more. After II WW german nation understand, what was wrong with Nazi Gremany, but russians still doesn’t understand, what was wrong with Soviet Union. Murders and rapers are still for him heroes.

  28. that tank was pulled out from Estonian lake called Kurtna Mätasjärv 59°17’18.26″N 27°34’7.71″E

    it is still in many parts and being restored. there are some financial issues and that`s why T34/76A isn`t assembled yet.

  29. Rules of war, you use them you have to mark them.

    Learn your tanks–this is Soviet T-34 with an Iron Cross ADDED to it.

  30. What´s ironic is that they hoped to pull out a Tiger tank. All that they knew was that there´s a tank in this lake and it has German crosses on it. So Sedunov&co failed.

  31. Soviet army at end of 1945 was low on men ,armor ,fuel, the
    superiority they enjoyed would have been short lived had Stalin
    tried to take europe for Russia, can you say atomic.
    from Patton supporter.

  32. of course its a russian T-34 that obviously was used by the germans. the question should be asked WHY?
    we are lied to about history. yes the german tans were superior somewhat but that was later, early in the war the germans used what they had. on the western front too. the english and french tanks were better in some ways also. but they did not have what the germans had,(well rommel obviously)but communications were the key. the germans prevailed with inferior equipment that was much better organized. in russia similar,the russians had 22,000 approx tanks to the germans 2800 . we are not told this fact, you need to dig for it,because our history is purposely manipulated. the germans used the enemies equipment frequently,they were not even fully ready for war. this is a hidden fact. hundreds of pictures verify this. it is good to piece together the truth ,we are lied to for a reason.


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